One of the constituents that makes red wine famous for its health content is resveratrol. To discover what it is, its potential benefits, and a few more foods that contain this antioxidant, we asked Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, of Real Nutrition in New York City, for her expert insights.
How resveratrol benefits your health
Resveratrol is a plant-based polyphenol (phytoalexin) that’s associated with a range of important bodily functions and potential health benefits. “Resveratrol activates sirtuins, which are enzymes that play a role in gene expression, metabolism, and aging,” Shapiro explains.
Getting more resveratrol in your diet may help you stack up your wellness wins and promote healthy aging… though there are a few important callouts worth noting. But first, let’s start with the good news. “The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in resveratrol may decrease oxidative stress, reduce disease incidence, and increase longevity,” says Shapiro. With that in mind, however, she takes care to note that the protective and anti-aging benefits of resveratrol warrant further inquiry.
While polyphenols (and antioxidants at large) are famed for their health-promoting properties, the existing research on resveratrol in particular isn’t definitive, largely on account of two reasons. First, the majority of studies concerning resveratrol’s benefits have been done on animals. For instance, a 2018 study in the journal Nutrients found that resveratrol intake by diabetic rats shows antioxidative properties. The researchers note that these results “may indirectly indicate benefits of consumption of foods as well as dietary supplements containing resveratrol in diminishing oxidative stress in lenses of individuals suffering from diabetes,” yet further research on humans is necessary for confirmation. Moreover, a 2019 review in the journal Free Radical Research investigates the nutrient’s efficiency for aging (via wine and grapes) as part of the Mediterranean Diet specifically, the latter of which “has been proven to prevent diseases including cardiovascular pathologies, cancer, and to prevent aging.” While this all sounds great, the authors conclude the review by explaining that only a few controlled studies exist on resveratrol to date and reiterate that current evidence, though compelling, “is based on animal research and first interventional human trials warrant further investigations.”
Next, the amount of resveratrol ingested in these studies typically exceeds the amount you’d get naturally via diet alone. “Since more high-quality research is needed to better understand the health effects of resveratrol, there is no recommended intake at this time,” Shapiro adds, which contributes to the existing gray area.
5 foods that contain resveratrol
With the points above in mind, let’s circle back to the bare basics of resveratrol. It’s found in nutrient-rich, plant-based whole foods, so eating more items that pack this polyphenol can’t hurt—not to mention that such foods are routinely praised and recommended as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.
“The whole foods below will not only provide resveratrol, but also contain other phytonutrients that can boost health,” Shapiro explains. In other words, you might as well prioritize them in your diet to boost your intake of resveratrol *and* promote overall well-being.
1. Red wine
“Resveratrol content in red wine can range from 0.2 mg to 2 mg per glass,” Shapiro says. If you want extra credit on the wellness front, look out for Cannonau di Sardegna the next time you browse the wine aisles, as it contains as much as three times the amount of flavonoids (another type of antioxidant) compared to other varieties. And of course, never start drinking for health reasons—while red wine is rich in resveratrol, all forms of alcohol are still considered toxins.
Shapiro notes that peanuts pack 0.32 mg to 1.28 mg of resveratrol per cup and also reminds us that they’re a good source of plant protein and heart-healthy fats. Eat them solo or mix up a trail mix recipe—perhaps even pairing peanuts with some of the other resveratrol-rich foods below.
It’s not too surprising that grapes made the cut on this list—after all, wine is simply fermented grape juice. Yet Shapiro clues us into the fact that the skin and seeds of grapes in particular pack the highest resveratrol content. The whole fruit contains “0.24 mg to 1.25 mg per cup, with grapes also being a good source of potassium and fiber,” she says.
Specifically, Shapiro says that blueberries and cranberries are the best sources of resveratrol in berries. The exact resveratrol content in each will vary, but rest assured that they’re highly beneficial and nutritious; she adds that they’re also good sources of vitamin C and fiber.
To end on a happy note, chocolate also gets the RD’s stamp of approval as a resveratrol food of note. However, the standard caveats apply: consume it in moderation, and the darker the better. “Chocolate is also a good source of magnesium,” Shapiro adds—a mineral that’s all too often scarce in American diets yet is important for mental health, sleep, and more.
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